North Dakota Abortion Law Rejected By U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court justices rejected a North Dakota appeal on abortion restrictions. The pending rules governing the pregnancy termination surgery in the state are considered the most stringent in the nation. The SCOTUS abortion appeal rejection means that rulings in lower state courts claiming the restrictions are unconstitutional will stand — at least for now.

The North Dakota abortion law was approved in 2013. Although passed, the strict pregnancy termination guidelines were never enacted due to legal filings contesting legislation on Constitutional grounds. The statute states it would be illegal to perform an abortion after a heartbeat could be detected. The heartbeat of a growing baby can be detected around six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, NBC News reports. Abortion rights activists have maintained that the time frame is too short, and that most women do not even realize that they are pregnant in that time frame.

The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo posted a notice in bold red on its website to inform searchers that the abortion clinic is open for business.

“Abortion is STILL legal in the state of North Dakota. Red River Women’s Clinic is OPEN, available for appointments and LEGALLY performing abortions,” the notice read.

The Fargo clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota, is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The group urged the U.S. Supreme Court to keep the ban on the abortion law in place.

“Since this Court first recognized constitutional protection for pre-viability abortion, two generations of American women have come of age, depending on constitutional protection for their dignity in making reproductive decisions,” the abortion rights group said.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he and lawmakers who supported the bill realized overturning the abortion legislation ban was a long shot. Stenehjem said that the state will not pursue the matter any further in the courts.

“Even some of staunchest pro-life groups agree there isn’t much more we can do at this point,” the North Dakota attorney general said, according to an ABC News report.

The viability of a fetus is determined by weeks in age and is a number which has changed significantly over the years due to medical advances. The currently accepted medical standard of fetal viability outside of the mother’s womb is is set at 23 to 24 weeks, according to a Yahoo News report. A contentious debate about fetus viability is ongoing, with some medical professionals now contending that a fetus actually begins to feel pain at just 20 weeks. Supporters of the North Dakota abortion law noted the heated dispute over fetus viability in the SCOTUS Stenehjem v. MKB Management arguments.

In spite of the arguments made by supporters of the North Dakota abortion ban, the Eighth Circuit Court ruled that “good reasons exist” for the U.S. Supreme Court to “revisit” abortions cases.

“The continued application of the Supreme Court’s viability standard discounts the legislative branch’s recognized interest in protecting unborn children,” a statement from the Eighth Circuit Court said regarding the North Dakota abortion appeals case.

The U.S. Supreme Court, which hears about 100 of the 7,500 cases presented for consideration each year, will soon be debating a Texas abortion law. A Lone Star State law which mandates that abortion clinics adhere to the same standards as other surgical centers, and requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals, is being challenged. Some pro-choice activists feel that the law was created not to enhance the safety of patients but to restrict access to abortions in the state. After the law was passed, 19 of 42 clinics opted to close instead of revamping to meet new safety standards.

What do you think about the 6-week abortion ban in North Dakota? Are you pro-life or pro-choice?

[Image via Shutterstock]

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